Lori Openden

Casting Executive


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

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About
About this interview

In her two-hour-and-fifteen-minute interview, Lori Openden discusses how she got her start in the industry working for a television agent at William Morris. She shares how she got hired as a secretary on Barney Miller and started her career in casting with the show's casting director, Beth Uffner. She describes casting the Barney Miller spin-off Fish, becoming a casting director at MTM, and recalls her work casting The Betty White Show, Rhoda, The White Shadow, and Hill Street Blues. She tells of becoming an independent casting director and casting TV movies and Cheers (starting in season three) and becoming a casting executive at NBC, where she was involved in casting Seinfeld, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Mad About You, Frasier, Friends, Will & Grace, L.A. Law, Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, ER, Freaks and Geeks, and The West Wing. Openden details becoming a casting consultant and then executive at UPN, where she oversaw casting on several shows, including Everybody Hates Chris and Veronica Mars. She then recounts becoming head of casting at the CW, where she oversaw the casting on Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries, Arrow, The Flash, Batwoman, Black Lightning, Riverdale, Jane the Virgin, Dynasty, and Charmed, among others. She describes the CW's programming strategy, how she learned the craft of casting, offers advice to aspiring actors and casting directors, and reflects on her experiences as head of casting at three different networks (NBC, UPN, and the CW). Adrienne Faillace conducted the interview on December 3, 2019 in North Hollywood, CA.

"We like to watch attractive people. I don’t ever apologize for that. People say to me, 'there's a CW type - attractive.' I always say, 'attractive and talented.' Because we don’t settle."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Lori Openden on learning about casting from Danny Arnold on Barney Miller
Lori Openden on Nicholas Colasanto passing away and casting Woody Harrelson on Cheers
Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Friends
Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Gossip Girl
Lori Openden on Gina Rodriguez winning the CW's first Golden Globe for Jane the Virgin
Lori Openden on advice for people who want to go into casting - learn the business side
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On her childhood and early influences; on her father's death and how that impacted her life; on her favorite TV shows growing up and her college years at Cal State Northridge
On working for a television agent at William Morris after college; on getting hired as a secretary on Barnery Miller and getting interested in casting; on casting Barnery Miller and its spin-off, Fish
On leaving Barnery Miller and casting the MTM shows The Betty White Show, Rhoda, The White Shadow, and Hill Street Blues
On becoming an independent casting director and casting TV movies; on casting Cheers - joining in season three; on her casting duties at NBC and her involvement in casting Saved by the Bell
On her involvement with casting Seinfeld, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Mad About You, Frasier, and Friends

Chapter 2

On her involvement in casting Will & Grace, L.A. Law, Law & Order, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
On her involvement in casting ER, Freaks and Geeks, and The West Wing
On becoming an independent casting director; on becoming a casting consultant and then executive at UPN; on UPN shows she cast, including Everybody Hates Chris and Veronica Mars
On the programming strategy at UPN and the merger of UPN and the WB to form the CW; on a typical day for her as head of casting at the CW; on casting the CW shows Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries, Arrow, The Flash, Batwoman, Black Lightning, Riverdale, Jane the Virgin, Dynasty, and Charmed

Chapter 3

On casting the CW shows All American, Nancy Drew, and In the Dark
On the success of CW shows on digital platforms and how the industry has changed since she started in broadcast TV; on how the abundance of digital platforms has impacted casting; on advice to aspiring actors; on her mentors
On advice for people who want to go into casting; on the casting field being predominately women; on her proudest career achievement; on how she would like to be remembered
Shows

8 Simple Rules ... for Dating My Teenage Daughter

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Lori Openden on being the casting director on 8 Simple Rules ... for Dating My Teenage Daughter

All American

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Lori Openden on casting the CW show All American

Arrow

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Lori Openden on casting Stephen Amell on Arrow

Barney Miller

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Lori Openden on getting hired as a secretary on Barnery Miller and getting interested in casting
Lori Openden on the casting process on Barnery Miller
Lori Openden on when she left Barnery Miller and began working for MTM - casting The Betty White Show and Rhoda

Batwoman

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Lori Openden on casting Ruby Rose on Batwoman

Bette

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Lori Openden on being the casting director on the sitcom Bette

Betty White Show, The (1977-78)

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Lori Openden on when she left Barnery Miller and began working for MTM - casting The Betty White Show and Rhoda

Black Lightning

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Lori Openden on casting Black Lightning

Charmed

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Lori Openden on casting the CW reboot of Charmed

Cheers

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Lori Openden on casting Cheers, starting in season three of the series

Dynasty

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Lori Openden on casting the CW reboot of Dynasty

ER

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting ER

Everybody Hates Chris

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Everybody Hates Chris

First Monday

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Lori Openden on being the casting director on the drama First Monday

Fish

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Lori Openden on casting the Barnery Miller spin-off, FIsh

Flash, The (2014)

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Lori Openden on casting Grant Gustin on The Flash

Frasier

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Frasier

Freaks and Geeks

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Freaks and Geeks

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Friends

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Friends

Gossip Girl

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Gossip Girl

Hill Street Blues

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Lori Openden on casting Hill Street Blues and the impact the show had on TV dramas
Lori Openden on the challenges of casting Hill Street Blues and what the day-to-day process was like

In the Dark

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Lori Openden on casting the CW show In the Dark

Jane the Virgin

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Lori Openden on casting Jane the Virgin

L.A. Law

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting L.A. Law

Law & Order

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Lori Openden on her (non) involvement in casting the pilot of Law & Order and adding talent to the show over the years

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Mad About You

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Mad About You

Nancy Drew

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Lori Openden on casting the CW show Nancy Drew

Rhoda

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Lori Openden on when she left Barnery Miller and began working for MTM - casting The Betty White Show and Rhoda

Riverdale

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Lori Openden on casting the young stars on Riverdale
Lori Openden on casting the parents on Riverdale

Saved by the Bell

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Lori Openden on the success of Saved by the Bell

Seinfeld

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Lori Openden on casting Seinfeld

Supergirl

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Lori Openden on Supergirl moving from CBS to the CW

Vampire Diaries, The

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting The Vampire Diaries

Veronica Mars

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Kristen Bell on Veronica Mars

West Wing, The

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting The West Wing

White Shadow, The

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Lori Openden on casting The White Shadow

Will & Grace

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting the main cast and guest stars on Will & Grace
Topics

Advice

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Lori Openden on her advice for aspiring actors
Lori Openden on advice for people who want to go into casting - learn the business side

Diversity in Television

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Lori Openden on the impact of Will & Grace on American culture
Lori Openden on how diversity in casting has changed since she started in the industry
Lori Openden on the casting field being predominately women

First Big Break

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Lori Openden on getting hired as a secretary on Barnery Miller and getting interested in casting

Historic Events and Social Change

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Lori Openden on the impact of Will & Grace on American culture
Lori Openden on how diversity in casting has changed since she started in the industry
Lori Openden on the casting field being predominately women

LGBTQ

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Lori Openden on the impact of Will & Grace on American culture
Lori Openden on how diversity in casting has changed since she started in the industry

Pivotal Career Moments

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Lori Openden on getting hired as a secretary on Barnery Miller and getting interested in casting

Technological Innovation

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Lori Openden on the technological innovations over the years that now allow her to approve all guest stars on CW shows
Lori Openden on how the abundance of digital platforms has impacted casting

Television Industry

View Topic
Lori Openden on the success of CW shows on digital platforms and how the industry has changed since she started in broadcast TV
Lori Openden on her advice for aspiring actors
Lori Openden on her mentors
Lori Openden on advice for people who want to go into casting - learn the business side
Lori Openden on paying attention to demographics at the CW

Women

View Topic
Lori Openden on the casting field being predominately women
Professions

Casting Director

View Profession
Lori Openden on how she learned to become critical of performances from her early experiences of casting Barney Miller, and on how she would find talent
Lori Openden on what she likes about casting
Lori Openden on changes in the casting industry over the years from the time she worked on Hill Street Blues to current day
Lori Openden on the audition process and when the network typically weighs in
Lori Openden on what she looked at when hiring casting executives and her team at NBC
Lori Openden on differences between being a casting director and a network casting executive
Lori Openden on chemistry and lack of chemistry between actors and how it can help or hurt a show
Lori Openden on the process of auditioning kids
Lori Openden on the hardest type of role to cast - leading men
Lori Openden on the differences between a character actor versus leading man

Executives

View Profession
Lori Openden on differences between being a casting director and a network casting executive
Lori Openden on how involved NBC executives were with casting decisions when she was at the network, and on the then-current involvement of networks in casting
Lori Openden on not visiting sets much as a casting executive at NBC
Lori Openden on becoming a casting consultant and then executive at UPN
Lori Openden on her casting strategy at the CW
Lori Openden on a typical day for her as head of casting for the CW

Talent Professionals

View Profession
Lori Openden on how she learned to become critical of performances from her early experiences of casting Barney Miller, and on how she would find talent
Lori Openden on what she likes about casting
Lori Openden on changes in the casting industry over the years from the time she worked on Hill Street Blues to current day
Lori Openden on the audition process and when the network typically weighs in
Lori Openden on what she looked at when hiring casting executives and her team at NBC
Lori Openden on differences between being a casting director and a network casting executive
Lori Openden on chemistry and lack of chemistry between actors and how it can help or hurt a show
Lori Openden on the process of auditioning kids
Lori Openden on the hardest type of role to cast - leading men
Lori Openden on the differences between a character actor versus leading man

Television Executive

View Profession
Lori Openden on differences between being a casting director and a network casting executive
Lori Openden on how involved NBC executives were with casting decisions when she was at the network, and on the then-current involvement of networks in casting
Lori Openden on not visiting sets much as a casting executive at NBC
Lori Openden on becoming a casting consultant and then executive at UPN
Lori Openden on her casting strategy at the CW
Lori Openden on a typical day for her as head of casting for the CW
Genres

Comedy Series

View Genre
Lori Openden on getting hired as a secretary on Barnery Miller and getting hired in casting
Lori Openden on casting the Barnery Miller spin-off, FIsh
Lori Openden on casting Cheers, starting in season three of the series
Lori Openden on the success of Saved by the Bell
Lori Openden on casting Seinfeld
Lori Openden on her involvement in casting The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Mad About You
Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Frasier
Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Friends
Lori Openden on her involvement in casting the main cast and guest stars on Will & Grace
Lori Openden on being the casting director on the sitcom Bette
Lori Openden on being the casting director on 8 Simple Rules ... for Dating My Teenage Daughter
Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Everybody Hates Chris

Drama Series

View Genre
Lori Openden on casting The White Shadow
Lori Openden on casting Hill Street Blues
Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Freaks and Geeks
Lori Openden on her involvement in casting The West Wing
Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Kristen Bell on Veronica Mars
Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Gossip Girl
Lori Openden on her involvement in casting The Vampire Diaries
Lori Openden on casting Stephen Amell on Arrow
Lori Openden on casting Grant Gustin on The Flash
Lori Openden on casting Ruby Rose on Batwoman
Lori Openden on Supergirl moving from CBS to the CW
Lori Openden on casting Black Lightning
Lori Openden on casting Riverdale
Lori Openden on casting Jane the Virgin
Lori Openden on casting the CW reboot of Dynasty
Lori Openden on casting the CW reboot of Charmed
Lori Openden on casting the CW show All American
Lori Openden on casting the CW show Nancy Drew
Lori Openden on casting the CW show In the Dark

Legal Dramas

View Genre
Lori Openden on her involvement in casting L.A. Law
Lori Openden on her (non) involvement in casting the pilot of Law & Order and adding talent to the show over the years
Lori Openden on being the casting director on the drama First Monday

Medical Dramas

View Genre
Lori Openden on her involvement in casting ER
People

Jason Alexander

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Lori Openden on casting Seinfeld

Kirstie Alley

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Lori Openden on Shelley Long's departure from Cheers and Kirstie Alley joining the show

Stephen Amell

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Lori Openden on casting Stephen Amell on Arrow

Jennifer Aniston

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Jennifer Aniston on Friends
Lori Openden on Jennifer Aniston playing "Rachel" instead of "Monica" on Friends
Lori Openden on why she believed Jennifer Aniston was meant to be a star

Danny Arnold

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Lori Openden on learning about casting from Danny Arnold on Barney Miller
Lori Openden on Danny Arnold's input on casting Barney Miller

Justin Baldoni

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Lori Openden on casting Justin Baldoni on Jane the Virgin

Kristen Bell

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Kristen Bell on Veronica Mars

Steven Bochco

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting L.A. Law with Steven Bochco

James Burrows

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Lori Openden on James Burrows taking the cast of Friends to Las Vegas before the show aired

Thomas Carter

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Lori Openden on casting The White Shadow, and on many of the actors learning to direct on the show, including Timothy Van Patten, Thomas Carter, and Kevin Hooks

George Clooney

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting George Clooney in his breakout role on ER

Enrico Colantoni

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Lori Openden on Kristen Bell and Enrico Colantoni on Veronica Mars

Nicholas Colasanto

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Lori Openden on Nicholas Colasanto passing away and casting Woody Harrelson on Cheers

Courteney Cox

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Lori Openden on Courteney Cox joining the cast of Friends

Taye Diggs

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Lori Openden on casting Taye Diggs on the CW show All American

Anthony Edwards

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Anthony Edwards on ER

Daniel Ezra

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Lori Openden on casting Daniel Ezra on the CW show All American

James Garner

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Lori Openden on John Ritter's death and bringing James Garner on to 8 Simple Rules ... for Dating My Teenage Daughter

Kelsey Grammer

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Frasier

Grant Gustin

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Lori Openden on casting Grant Gustin on The Flash

Charles Haid

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Lori Openden on casting Charles Haid on Hill Street Blues

Mariska Hargitay

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Mariska Hargitay on Law & Order

Woody Harrelson

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Lori Openden on Nicholas Colasanto passing away and casting Woody Harrelson on Cheers

Sean Hayes

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Sean Hayes on Will & Grace

Kevin Hooks

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Lori Openden on casting The White Shadow, and on many of the actors learning to direct on the show, including Timothy Van Patten, Thomas Carter, and Kevin Hooks

Peter Horton

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Lori Openden on casting Peter Horton as a guest star The White Shadow

Quincy Jones

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Lisa Kudrow

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Lori Openden on Lisa Kudrow being in the original cast of Frasier
Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Lisa Kudrow on Friends

Jane Leeves

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Lori Openden on Jane Leeves getting cast on Frasier

Hal Linden

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Lori Openden on Hal Linden's performance on Barney Miller

Warren Littlefield

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Lori Openden on working with Warren Littlefield and Brandon Tartikoff at NBC

Shelley Long

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Lori Openden on Shelley Long's departure from Cheers and Kirstie Alley joining the show

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

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Lori Openden on casting Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Seinfeld

Rick Ludwin

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Lori Openden on Rick Ludwin's enthusiasm for Seinfeld

Julianna Margulies

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Julianna Marguiles on ER

Eric McCormack

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Erick McCormack on Will & Grace

Christopher Meloni

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Christopher Meloni on Law & Order

Debra Messing

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Debra Messing on Will & Grace

Bette Midler

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Lori Openden on being the casting director on the sitcom Bette

Shelley Morrison

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Shelley Morrison on Will & Grace

Megan Mullally

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Megan Mullally on Will & Grace

Bruce Paltrow

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Lori Openden on Bruce Paltrow giving several of the actors on The White Shadow the opportunity to direct
Lori Openden on working with Bruce Paltrow on casting The White Shadow

Timothy Van Patten

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Lori Openden on casting The White Shadow, and on many of the actors learning to direct on the show, including Timothy Van Patten, Thomas Carter, and Kevin Hooks

Luke Perry

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Lori Openden on casting the parents on Riverdale

Matthew Perry

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Matthew Perry on Friends

David Hyde Pierce

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Lori Openden on David Hyde Pierce getting cast on Frasier

Michael Richards

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Lori Openden on casting Michael Richards on Seinfeld

John Ritter

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Lori Openden on being the casting director on 8 Simple Rules ... for Dating My Teenage Daughter, and on John Ritter's sudden death

Gina Rodriguez

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Lori Openden on casting Gina Rodriguez on Jane the Virgin
Lori Openden on Gina Rodriguez winning the CW's first Golden Globe for Jane the Virgin

Ruby Rose

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Lori Openden on casting Ruby Rose on Batwoman

Eriq La Salle

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Eriq La Salle on ER

David Schwimmer

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting David Schwimmer on Friends

Jerry Seinfeld

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Lori Openden on casting Seinfeld

Martin Sheen

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Martin Sheen on The West Wing

Will Smith

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Jimmy Smits

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Lori Openden on her involvement in casting Jimmy Smits on L.A. Law

Aaron Sorkin

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Lori Openden on working with Aaron Sorkin on The West Wing

Brandon Tartikoff

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Lori Openden on working with Warren Littlefield and Brandon Tartikoff at NBC
Lori Openden on casting Michael Richards on Seinfeld

Grant Tinker

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Lori Openden on casting Bruce Weitz on Hill Street Blues

Beth Uffner

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Lori Openden on working with and learning from casting director Beth Uffner on Barney Miller

Bruce Weitz

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Lori Openden on casting Bruce Weitz on Hill Street Blues

Cress Williams

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Lori Openden on casting Black Lightning

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